Getting serious about the concussion risk for young athletes

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on April 4, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 5 at 1:31 AM

FORT WORTH — Every 21 seconds, someone suffers mild brain trauma, like a concussion.

By some estimates, there are more than 300,000 sports-related concussions every year, and that has many concerned about brain injuries.

The University Interscholastic League has just created a tough new rule that will affect the playing field at high schools starting this fall.

The UIL noted there is a lack of trained and knowledgeable individuals at many athletic contests across the country. That can lead to decisions being made to return athletes with concussions to a game.

The Fort Worth ISD, however, already has a strict protocol in place; no "minor ding" is taken for granted.

Football is king in Texas and unfortunately concussions are a negative side effect of a favorite high school pastime. Trimble Tech athletic trainer Jason Braud knows this first-hand.

"Concussions are something we deal with in football season on a weekly basis," he said.

The current UIL rule lets players return to action if they show no symptoms for 15 minutes. The new rule, which takes effect on August 1, requires athletes to sit out the rest of the day if they receive a concussion, and a licensed medical professional would have to clear them to play again.

Doctors say it's an important change, because symptoms of a concussion often don't occur immediately. Misdiagnosis can lead to long-term problems and even brain damage.

"I played soccer in high school, and I had a series of concussions through my high school career," Braud said. "There's things in my high school career I don't remember."

Braud still experiences some memory loss from his concussions and believes the new rule will help keep young athletes safe.

"It just puts everybody on the same page — having standards and making sure those standards are met before they return to the court or the field," said Fort Worth ISD athletic director Kevin Greene.

Greene added that FWISD already has doctors on site at games, and players with any sign of a concussion have not been permitted to play on without medical clearance.

He said the new UIL rule provides further assurance that the district's policy is being followed.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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